OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians have become more worried about the economy, ranking it the second most important issue facing the country, up from fifth place just half a year ago, a new poll showed on Tuesday.
The poll, conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail newspaper and CTV television, found that 12 percent think the economy is Canada's No. 1 problem, tied with health care and behind the environment.
In a similar poll six months ago, 9 percent ranked the economy as their top concern, the Globe and Mail reported.
"After years of the public taking our prosperity for granted, now the darkened clouds have started to affect their outlook," Strategic Counsel partner Peter Donolo told the paper.
Twenty-eight percent said the economy was getting worse, up from 22 percent; 18 percent said it was getting stronger, down from 31 percent.
Canada's economy is slowing in the wake of the U.S. subprime mortgage-related debacle and softening U.S. demand for its exports. As predictions of a U.S. recession grow, more economists are warning that Canada, which sells three-quarters of its exports to the United States, can no longer escape the fallout.
But Canadians do not seem to be blaming the minority Conservative government for the hard times. Thirty-six percent said they would vote for the ruling party in an election, compared with 30 percent support for the opposition Liberals.
The numbers are not enough to win a majority government and are exactly the same percentage won by each respective party in the 2006 election.
An Ipsos-Reid survey for CanWest on Monday had yielded a slight lead for the Liberals at 35 percent, compared with 33 percent for the Conservatives.
The Strategic Counsel surveyed 1,000 Canadians from January 10 to January 13 and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points.
Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Bernadette Baum